Making transformative connections

Mount Holyoke student Katie Milligan scored an internship at Al Otro Lado, which provides legal and practical assistance to migrants at the Mexican border.

When Katie Milligan ’23 was planning her summer internship, she was looking for an organization that aligned with her values and her hopes to study immigration law after graduation. She connected with nonprofit Al Otro Lado (To the Other Side), which provides legal aid and services for migrants along the U.S.–Mexico border.

While most of Al Otro Lado’s efforts center border states, Milligan was assigned to Detention Kills, a project which focuses on bringing legal services and representation to undocumented immigrants in ICE detention facilities across the southeastern United States.

“I’ve been able to do intake with clients and get to know them and learn a bit more about how legal processes work, understanding the lingo a bit more. It’s been a really good experience,” she said of the remote internship that began May 31 and continues through mid-August.

Creating human connections with people has been one of the most fulfilling aspects about the internship, Milligan said.

Finding her way

Milligan’s experiences at Mount Holyoke College have encouraged her to come into her own, as she’s developed friendships and mentor relationships and trained for track and field/cross country.

Adriana Pitetta, assistant professor of Spanish, has been one of her closest allies and a steadfast mentor. “[She] looks out for her students and has allowed me to think about [developing my career] in an ethical way and widen my perspective,” Milligan said. “She’s so knowledgeable and cool. I’ve really appreciated being her student and being able to learn from her.”

The connections that she’s made with others at Mount Holyoke have also been transformative, she said.

“Having people in this community that support you and have a lot of faith in your ability to grow has meant the world. It has really allowed me to change as much as I have in the past four years,” Milligan said.

“Having people in this community that support you and have a lot of faith in your ability to grow has meant the world. It has really allowed me to change as much as I have in the past four years.”

Previously, Milligan completed an internship with the Trans Asylum Seeker Support Network (TASSN), a mutual aid organization based in western Massachusetts. She was able to utilize the Lynk Universal Application Funding through Mount Holyoke, which provides $3,000 for domestic internships.

“I was able to build a relationship with people in the [regional] network and provide on-the-ground services for asylum seekers, including interpretation at appointments, free rides and help navigating different organizations and legal support.”

After Milligan’s internship with TASSN ended, she continued volunteering for efforts that focus on rent support and legal help. “It [has become] a huge part of my life,” she said.

As Milligan contemplates her future, she knows she wants to navigate the legal field with an ethical approach. Her experiences at Mount Holyoke, as well as those at her internships with TASSN and Al Otro Lado, have given her insight into providing community-oriented aid.

“I definitely want to continue in this field, whether it’s working directly with lawyers to provide legal aid to migrants [and] workers or helping to coordinate [direct-support] resources like housing and food resources,” she said. “Those are all things that I feel like I have a good skill set for, and they make a changeable difference and allow me to make deeper connections with people.”

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